Photo by Li Qiang
higher court when the case was first tried, raised the point that due to the lack of evidence, the case could not be concluded. The court has two options for the court – acquit all five suspects, or rescind the judgment. However, for unknown reasons, only the death penalties for three of the suspects were altered to suspended death sentences,” the source told the NewsChina reporter. NewsChina’s repeated efforts to reach Wang Youzhang, the current deputy Party secretary of the Zhejiang Higher Court, were unsuccessful.
The only picture of Chen Jianyang found at his home
Photo by Li Qiang
Wang Jianjun, Zhu Youping’s defense counsel at the original trial, sees the case as a standout failure in his legal career. In 1997, Wang, then in his early 30s, worked for the justice department of Xiaoshan (then a city in its own right, now a district under the administration of Hangzhou) and was assigned as the defense lawyer for Zhu Youping. After consulting the relevant files with other lawyers assigned to the case, Wang and his peers decided to make their defense based on “insufficient incriminating proof.” Wang Jianjun told NewsChina: “First, we decided to plead not guilty, as there was no proof that the defendants were guilty. Our decision was based on China’s Criminal Procedure Law, newly amended in 1996, which stated that the defendant should be presumed innocent until proven guilty or not guilty,” said Wang, “but we were concerned that the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ a brand new principle in China at the time, would be too much for the police and the prosecution, who were still under the sway of the traditional mentality.” Despite the defense of Wang Jianjun and the other lawyers, the five suspects were found guilty at a trial at which they were not present, despite the absence of any incriminating forensic evidence. “In the absence of vital proof, the verdicts were clearly unreasonable,” said Wang Jianjun. “None of the five suspects confessed in court.” According to Xu Xin, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology Law School, it is common in China for the opinions of criminal defense lawyers to be subject to the will of the judicial and law-enforcement au-
Chen Zhaohai, Chen Jianyang’s father
thorities, including the procuratorate, the courts and the police. “Despite the amendments made to the Law on Lawyers in 2012 to better protect the rights of lawyers, the situation has seen no significant improvement. It is still very hard for lawyers to access case files, or to meet with their clients. Particularly in [politically] sensitive cases, defense lawyers are forbidden to meet their clients or review their case files until just a few days before the opening of the court session,” Xu Xin told the NewsChina reporter in a recent interview. “The rights of lawyers are not guaranteed, and this is one of the major reasons for erroneous verdicts and unfair sentencing on the part of the court.”
The emergence of the new proof con-
cerning the 1995 murder-robbery case has touched off heated online discussion, particularly since it brought to mind two equally astonishing cases of false imprisonment. In May 2010, 57-year-old Zhao Zuohai, a man who had served 13 years in prison for murder in Henan Province, was freed when his alleged victim turned up alive. It was proved that the police had used torture to extract Zhao’s confession, and Zhao later received compensation of 760,000 yuan (US$120,000) from the government. She Xianglin, of Hubei Province, received 420,000 yuan (US$67,000) compensation and was released in 2005 after spending 11 years in prison for the murder of his wife, who was later found to be alive. She Xianglin also alleged that he had been tortured into making a false confession. The new evidence in the case in Hangzhou has caused many to suspect that police extracted the five men’s confessions using torture. “They refused to confess to the crime at the first court hearing, and they all took off their clothes to show the wounds from having been beaten,” Tian Yongxiang, elder brother of Tian Xiaoping, one of the five suspects, recalled to NewsChina what happened at the court in 1997, claiming that the five were tortured at their police interrogation. Lawyer Wang Jianjun said to the reporter that he could not remember clearly if the defendants had showed their wounds in court, but he said that in the 1990s, he had more than once seen suspects undress themselves to show the judges their wounds, implying that police torture was common practice at the time. Tian Yongping, another elder brother of suspect Tian Xiaoping, told NewsChina that while visiting his brother in the detention center, the latter told him that they had been beaten by “someone,” and had finally confessed to the robbery and murders. Tian Yongping also recounted the scene at the court where all five took off their clothes to show the scars. “When I saw the scars, I reasoned that they could not fight each other in the detention center, so there must have been another cause for their injuries,” Tian Yongping added.
“In contrast to the Zhao Zuohai and She Xianglin cases, now only one of the two murCHINA WEEKLY I March 2013
April 2013 Issue